By Fred Topel | Images property of Walt Disney Pictures
Race to Witch Mountain
Race to Witch Mountain is bad. It's not just bad like some kids movies are bad because they're dumbed down. It is wow bad.
Review: Race to Witch Mountain
It gets off to a bad start when you can't even believe the government suits. This is a standard action movie cliché that always gets the job done, but these guys are so overwrought, even kids responding on the id level won't buy them. They look silly, like clowns.
Disney's idea of making Jack Bruno (Dwayne Johnson) edgy is that he punches a heavy bag in his seedy motel room (which isn't really that gross) and has stubble. The tough guy thugs who accost him are way too nice. Kids can handle some edge. The best kids movies have it. I'm insulted on behalf of this generation.
The action is not exciting at all. Cut to a problem, cut back to the cab, back to the problem, back to the cab again. The first sequence involves mild car crashing, boxing a hero car in. And a Matrix bullet time shot, really?
Fights are clunky. Characters come out of nowhere to hit others, so how is that exciting when it's already over by the time you realize what happened?
Somehow Disney's version of a Mexican standoff has no suspense. I'm not worried anybody is going to get blown away.
The effects are really horrible. Green screen shots are not only obvious, it doesn't even look like the reactions match the backgrounds. Why does the spaceship look faker than Flight of the Navigator did over 20 years ago? Perhaps the blue animated squiggles are a reference to the original Witch Mountain. That's only one shot.
It probably doesn't matter how lame the effects are since there's nothing magical about the visuals anyway. A gooey, crystal jungle wouldn't even make a good theme park ride. There are no one-liners. It's all just sarcasm. Jack Bruno asks rhetorical questions to indicate that the opposite is actually going on. Every character says, "Ya' think" as a catch phrase. Jack observes what's going on and really just whines about it.
Some stuff is just redundant. A waitress cleans the kids up while Jack takes a phone call from his boss, neither of which matter.
AnnaSophia Robb is so good I really believe she's an alien adapting to earth dialogue. Having Meredith Salenger play a reporter named Natalie Gann is a pretty elaborate reference to Natty Gann, so at least Disney is calling back to their library of family movies that weren't quite classics.
Ultimately, the whole adventure is just driving back and forth. They leave Vegas for the desert, then go back to Vegas, then go to the desert again. Wow.